Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor faced lofty expectations coming into college, but lived up to the hype after winning the national championship and leading the Blue Devils with 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Did he do enough to become the number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft?
Okafor is a massive presence inside, listed at 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds. He has extraordinary footwork for his size and massive hands that make his ability to palm a basketball look like an average person holding an orange. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but his physical makeup and excellent footwork give him an advantage against interior defenders.
The biggest strength in Okafor’s game is his ability to score inside. He can use an array of spins or drop steps to lose a defender and score at the rim. If he receives the ball before help defense comes, Okafor can use his soft hands to catch and finish in remarkably quick time. Okafor is a decent ballhandler, especially for a center, and can use his dribble to set up his defender and spin off to create space. He does a good job reading a defender and reacting instead of using predetermined post moves. Once he beats his man, Okafor can use a hook shot or dunk to finish on the offensive end. He shot 66.4% from the field at Duke, with a majority of his points coming at the rim. At just 19-years-old, Okafor has one of the most polished interior games seen in recent years.
As a dominant offensive scorer, Okafor faced various double-teams at the collegiate level. He was able to improve as a passer at Duke because he saw a double-team basically every time he caught the ball. His 1.3 assists compared to 2.5 turnovers may not look great, but he did show the ability to pass out of the double-team consistently. As a result, his pass usually resulted in an extra pass for an even better shot.
Okafor showed decent ability on the glass, recording at least ten rebounds in 11 of 39 games, but did sometimes struggle to find a man and box-out consistently. With his impressive size, this should be an area that will progress at the next level with improved effort. Even at the current stage, Okafor is a decent rebounder that can still grow in this area.
The struggles for Okafor come on the defensive end of the floor. While he’s a decent one-on-one defender on the block, Okafor isn’t an athletic shot-blocking presence. Okafor also showed some major struggles defending the pick-and-roll. He isn’t laterally quick and could struggle in the modern NBA against offenses revolved around the pick-and-roll.
Okafor also needs to improve as a free throw shooter. He averaged 5.1 free throw attempts per game, but converted at just a 51% rate. Okafor shows a decent stroke that he used for some mid-range bank shots this season, but he’ll need to translate that to the free throw line in the NBA.
At the next level, Okafor’s game could draw similarities to Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson, who is listed at 6-foot-10, 289 pounds. Jefferson has carved out an 11-year career in the NBA and has been one of the most underrated players in the league as a dominant low post scorer. An even more optimistic comparison that Okafor has received, who his future team will be hoping he can come close to, is Tim Duncan. Like these two players, Okafor is a physically imposing low post scorer that can feast inside.
Okafor will be in contention for the number one pick in the upcoming draft, although the late rise of Karl-Anthony Towns has given Okafor competition for the top selection. Okafor is one of the more NBA-ready prospects in the draft and will be able to crack a starting lineup immediately due to his advanced offensive game. He would fit best in a floor-spacing offense with shooters that would give defenses issues if they double-team Okafor. Defensively, he could excel alongside an athletic shot-blocker to help mask his defensive liabilities. Bottom line, Okafor will be a top three pick in the 2015 NBA Draft with a chance to go first overall. He should be a fairly safe option, as his floor is likely a solid NBA starter, with the potential to become a future NBA All-Star.
Any international players interested in coming to the USA to play in college, prep school or high school can contact us here. We are looking for interns and sales associates. If you’re interested contact us and forward your resume.